disability, essays, neurodivergence

It is for freedom we have been set free

Content warning for child abuse story. Start at 3:24 if this is a trigger for you

First, it is a great feeling to be able to understand and process every word from a speaker without needing the captions. That almost never happens. I feel like I actually processed every word!

Aside from speaking skills, this was so healing. And not only as someone with APD but the heart behind it holds several jewels I think we all need to learn from. Dr. Alexander approaches her work in a way that feels more like ministry than many “ministers” we hear about online.

“I know what it feels like … to be imprisoned, but I also know how it feels to be set free.”

This is the crux of it, right from the start. Those of us deconstructing or evolving or just plain leaving conservative and evangelical church traditions know that feeling of being “set aside and dismissed.” Queer people who have lived in the closet know the feeling of being restrained inside that metaphor, of being not only hidden but trapped. Neurodivergent and mentally ill and disabled people know this prison that is their own mind and body. So many of us who resonate with a name like “Invisible Cake Society” have had to work through our traumas while it felt like no one could perceive us and no one would believe us.

Until we are seen and refuse to be silenced. Until we come out, whether in a quiet, subtle way or an explosion of colors. Until we learn more and advocate for ourselves. Until we hear our therapists and doctors say, “Look how far you’ve come.” That doesn’t always mean physical healing or acceptance of others or a thriving faith or that life is smooth sailing. But at some point we take a step, usually with help from those who have gone before, and walk into freedom out of that system or organization or way of thinking or relationship. Out of places of (or internalized) ableism and queerphobia and trying to pray it all away or hustle our way around it. Out of the cage.

That step is the first part of our story. We know how it feels to be set free. But our freedom isn’t just for us.

“I have made the conscious decision to believe every client who tells me they are struggling.”

So many of us need this from our leaders, our friends, our family. And now, being on the journey of learning freedom, we can offer that empathy to others. We can believe them when they say they are grieving instead of comparing suffering. We can listen instead of ranking and gatekeeping identity. We can learn before dismissing and ask the deeper questions.

Sarah Bessey and Jeff Chu have been talking about this a lot for The Evolving Faith Podcast this season. Your healing is not just for you. Your journey into the wilderness is not a solo trip forever. You may feel alone at the start, but there have been many before and many alongside and many will follow. What will you do with the gifts you have been given? Who has been hurt by the systems you were invested in, and where do you invest now? What will you do with the vulnerable stories shared and the wisdom you have learned through hard experience and the responsibility to do better now that you know better? We can’t answer these like homework questions. They too are lifelong companions we bring with us.

You are good,” and we are so lucky to have you.

This is our work. To speak imago Dei, to make sure that we have treated everyone with respect and value and dignity, to continue the word of goodness to the next generation and to our neighbors who have been traumatized too. Who have been marginalized too. Who have been desperate to escape. Who have been given the diagnosis with condescension and no options. Who have been told to change themselves to belong. Who have been trapped in need of freedom.

The freedom we have felt.

As Kate Bowler says, “You are not the bad thing.”

You are good, you are believed, you are seen, and you are free.

essays, Mental health

You deserve the help you need

No amount of busyness or responsibility cures clinical depression, anxiety disorders, or neurodivergence. I believe people when they say they “just” needed (a kid, a partner, a job change, spirituality, a move) and now they feel better. But that’s not a cure for our disorders.

Sometimes in life, we do need a change. Whether it’s a weekly “me time” or a crosscountry move or a new business, change can be good. But you cannot outrun your disorder. You can’t out-schedule it or out-perform it or out-laugh it. You can’t fill your life with enough people. You can only face it. Discover your values. Accept what you have been given and commit to living according to those values. Set your boundaries, and unravel your shame. Deconstruct and reconstruct and get help from people qualified and trustworthy to give it.

The only way is through. The only way is honesty with yourself and your past, present, and future. It takes lament and commitment, feeling the pain and not avoiding and learning to be whole while shattered. There is no easy out or clever trick or shortcut.

We take our meds and pay for the help we can afford and research, listen, and grow. We do what’s healthy for us emotionally, mentally, and physically. Knowing sometimes it will be a choice between one or the other. And we forgive ourselves and keep going when we hurt ourselves. We can’t outsmart it, but we find balance in the tumult. Slowly, over time. Like a raging river wearing on a rock.

We pray, “just enough for today, God.” That’s all we need. To keep breathing another day. and eventually, it is easier to breathe some days.

But we never graduate from this. We never achieve enough or get promoted out of a disorder. We can make it work and learn to live with it and do things to reduce it. But those are done in humility, with the step of facing it, saying I cannot hide in fake fine. If you are struggling this month, this year, this lifetime. It’s not too late and it’s not too early. You don’t have to wait until you hit the bottom. You don’t have a lack of will or spiritual weakness or identity of failure; you have a disability.

I don’t know that I’m there yet to be proud of my disabilities, but this #DisabilityPrideMonth, please don’t let anyone tell you that you just haven’t tried hard enough or are not busy enough or have too much time on your hands. You deserve the help you need.